Thunderstorms that passed through West Virginia Tuesday night left thousands without power, caused several instances of property damage and killed a small herd of cattle that apparently sought shelter under a tree in Putnam County.
The Craigo Farm in Red House had 45 beef cattle before one of those quick-moving storms. On Wednesday morning, they were down to 36.
Nine cows on the rural Putnam County farm fell victim to a lightning strike while apparently sheltering under a tree during the storm.
Tony Craigo, 70, heard the strike at around 8:30 p.m. and his brother, Bill, saw it.
About 20 minutes later, once the rain subsided, two went to assess the damage and found nine cattle — five adults and four calves — lying dead under a tree on the mountaintop farm. Seven of the cows fell dead near the tree, while two were apparently thrown into the air, through a barbed-wire fence and about 30 feet down a hill.
Another calf was also lying in the pile of dead cows but later recovered.
“That makes you sick when something like that happens,” Craigo said. “You work your butt off, then lose it all.”
The nine cows were buried Wednesday afternoon.
Craigo estimated his losses at between $12,000 to $14,000. He hopes to recoup some of that through an insurance claim.
Though rare, Craigo said it’s “part of life on a farm.”
He said he lost a lone cattle to a lightning strike about 25 years ago, but had never seen anything like what he saw Tuesday night.
“There wasn’t a mark on them,” Craigo said. “It just killed them instantly.”
Appalachian Power spokesman Phil Moye said as many as 6,000 customers were without power Tuesday night in Cabell County because of the storms that passed through the area.
“Most of the outages from the storm have been restored,” Moye said Wednesday morning. “We have a few hundred customers that are out from that night and we should have those repairs (by) this evening.”
Moye said two separate, unrelated problems in Wayne and Mason counties around 8:45 a.m. Wednesday has led to widespread outages. More than 3,000 customers in Wayne County were without power as of 11 a.m., while fewer than 2,000 customers were without power in Mason County.
Simone Lewis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston, said the storms that passed through the area Tuesday didn’t meet the “severe” criteria, but did pack lots of lightning.
“We didn’t have any severe reports of damage, especially in the Kanawha-Putnam area,” Lewis said. “We had winds in the 40 to 45 mph range, which is below severe, and some heavy rains out of it. We’re looking at more showers and thunderstorms today.”
In Cabell County, a church apparently caught fire from a strike of lightning. WSAZ reported a small fire broke out in Steele Memorial United Methodist Church in the 700 block of Shaw Street in Barboursville just before 8 p.m.Tuesday in a utility room.
The lightning strike caused damage to the church’s air conditioning unit, but there was no other apparent major damage, according to WSAZ.
There are simple steps that can be taken to decrease the chance of being injured or killed by lightning during a storm. This week, the National Weather Service is sharing safety information as part of Lightning Safety Awareness Week.
The National Weather Service says a sturdy, substantial building with plumbing is the best place to be during a lightning storm. But if you get caught outside during a storm, you can follow these steps to avoid getting struck:
Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges or peaks.
Never lie flat on the ground.
Never shelter under an isolated tree.
Never use a cliff or rocky overhang for shelter.
Immediately get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water.
Stay away from objects that conduct electricity, such as wire fences or power lines.
Moye said Appalachian Power has lightning arrestors throughout its system to protect its equipment from the effects of power surges from lightning strikes. But nothing is perfectly safe from lightning, and Moye said customers should take steps to ensure their electrical equipment is protected from the surges that could be caused by a lightning strike.
“As with anything else, if you get a direct strike on anything, it can damage your facilities,” Moye said. “I don’t know if that happened last night, but it can.
“Having surge protection at home is a good idea,” Moye said. “In the same way a lightning strike can damage our facilities, you can have similar damage in a home to electronics and other appliances.”
Power had been restored to all customers in Wayne County as of 5 p.m. Wednesday. About 220 customers remained without power in Cabell County.
Contact writer Marcus Constantino at 304-348-1796 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at www.twitter.com/amtino.